The circus was
depicted in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1952 film as “The Greatest Show on Earth”. It
is also referred to as “The Show of Shows”.
It has had the power to entertain and enthral not only audiences
through the generations but also many photographers. This can be summed up by Mary Ellen Mark who
quoted: “I'm a street photographer, but I'm interested in any ironic,
whimsical images, and there's something very romantic about a circus.”
This photographic project interprets common aspects of the circus in themed
groups of photographs:
The poster brings details and an air of expectation for forthcoming
events. The photographs in this series
show posters, placards, banners, wall art, graffiti and building
2. Tour venues
A feature of the circus is that it packs up and moves to the next venue. It rarely stays in the same place for any
length of time. In this series,
photographs are grouped by city to reflect the transient, nomadic nature of a
touring circus. Glimpses of the main
features of the city visited are captured because it is usually only these
sights that can be seen in the time available.
3. “Big Top”
The “Big Top” is the canvas tent in which the circus performance take
place. The use of textiles to facilitate
such decoration and protection are explored in photographs taken mainly in
Riga, which is famous for its contemporary production and use of knitwear.
This series of black and white photographs shows people undergoing leisure
activities or work, i.e. performing and engaging. The use of black of white is a deliberate
choice by the photographer and is consistent with his approach of keeping
pictures of people and human situations in monochrome form.
Clowns are the staple of any circus. This series is perhaps the most obviously
interpreted in the project because it comprises photographs of models of
clowns taken predominantly at the Pevensey Scarecrow Festival.
As for clowns, the use of animals in the circus has been going on for
generations - acrobats jumping through hoops on horseback, lion taming and
dancing elephants all come to mind.
This is depicted through photographs of models of animals created for
all sorts of reasons, e.g. merchandising, decorative purposes etc.
Animals are on display again in this series.
This time, however, the animals have been brought to the show ring at
country shows where they are judged for their appearance and breeding.
8. Object manipulations
The circus is the realm of the magician and the juggler where objects are
manipulated to entertain. The concept
of object manipulation is interpreted in this series to mean the manipulation
of materials to create images of men, women and other objects. This is a recurring fascination for the
photographer. The series is split into
two further categories: fine art (where manipulated objects are
created deliberately for artistic endeavour or formal, functional displays)
and folk art (where objects are created for commercial activity or local
The sale of memorabilia and food at events is a response to the commercial
reality of living in the modern world.
A selection of these items are shown.
Click here or on themes on
the left hand side of the screen to see the photographs